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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

One of the last ten nights of the month of Ramzan is called lail at-Qadr. The word lail or laila means night and qadr means originally measuring. Thus, lail at-qadr is translated as meaning the night of grandeur or night of majesty. In the Koran, it is spoken of in two places. In chapter 97, it is mentioned thrice as lail at-qadr: “Surely, We revealed it on lail at-qadr. And what will make thee comprehend what lail at-qadr is? Lail at-qadr is better than a thousand months. The angels and the souls descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every commandment (amr). Peace! it is till the break of the morning.” Here this night is spoken as the night in which the Koran was revealed, and it is further stated that it is the night on which angels and souls descend. It is also mentioned in another place in the Koran (44:2-5), where it is called laila mubaraka: “Consider the Book that makes manifest (the truth): We revealed it on a blessed night – surely We are ever warning – therein every wise commandment (amr) is made distinct, a command (amr) from Us.”

It will be seen that, in both place, the Koran is spoken of as having been revealed on this night, and elsewhere (2:186), it is stated that the Koran was revealed in the month of Ramzan, which indicates that this night occurs in the month of Ramzan. The revelation of the Koran on this night means that its revelation began on that night; in other words, the first revelation came to the Prophet on this night. It is called the night of measure because on it was laid the basis of a new revelation to the world, which contains every commandment (amr) full of wisdom and knowledge; for the same reason, it is called a blessed night or the grand night. The lail at-qadr is therefore as it were, the anniversary of the revelation of the Koran.

There are various hadith showing that the Muslims should look for this night in the last ten nights of Ramzan, or in the last seven nights. Another tradition relates that it is the 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th night of Ramzan.

In a tradition related by Tabarsi (2:121) on the authority of Abuzar Ghafari and also on the authority of Imam Jafar Sadik, who transmitted it from his fathers, we are told that the Prophet said, “The scrolls (suhuf) of Abraham were sent on the 3rd night of Ramzan. The Torah of Moses was revealed on the 6th night of Ramzan. The Gospel (Injil) of Jesus was sent down on the 13th night of Ramzan. The Psalms (Zabur) of David were revealed on the 18th of Ramzan. The Furqan (Koran) was sent down on the 23rd night of the month of Ramzan.”

Imam Muhammad al-Bakir said, “The sign of lail at-qadr is that the wind would be pleasant. If it is cold, the wind makes it warm. If it is warm, the wind makes its cold” (al-Kafi, 4:160). According to Daim al- Islam, 1:350), Imam Muhammad al-Bakir relates that a man of the tribe of Juhayna came to the Prophet and said, “O Apostle of God! I am the owner of camels and sheep and slaves. I would love to be directed by you as to a night in the month of Ramzan, wherein I would devote myself to prayer.” So, the Apostle of God called him near and whispered in his ear. Now, when it was the night of 23rd of Ramzan, the Juhayni came with his family and sons, his slaves, camels and his sheep and stayed that night in Medina. The next morning he returned to his native place with those with whom he had come.

According to Daim al-Islam (1:351), the Prophet used to fold up his bedding and tightened his waistband during the last ten nights of Ramzan. He used to wake up his family on the night of the 23rd and sprinkle water on the faces of those that slept. Fatima would never allow any of her family to sleep during that night. She used to give them little food (during the iftar) and would prepare for the night throughout the day. She used to say, “Luckless is the man who has been denied the blessings of this night.”

The above point regarding the actual night of lail at-qadr is mere a physical discussion, but it should be borne in mind that lail at-qadr is a spiritual experience, not physical of the Prophet. It is also an error to think that it can be beheld as a physical experience, or that any physical change is witnessed on that night. It is absolutely spiritual experience of the man who exerts himself not only in the month of Ramzan but on every night of the year to seek nearness to the Divine Being through zikr.

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